American Football

Key Houston Texans Takeaways from The Athletic’s 2023 NFL Draft Guide


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A sneak behind The Athletic’s pay wall, from a Texans’ point of view.

The Athletic’s 2023 NFL Draft Guide, otherwise known as “The Beast,” marks a pivotal point in the draft process. It’s the final dictation of many players’ assessments heading into the NFL Draft. It’s a testament and confirmation of all of the pre-draft work the fine folks at The Athletic compile, but also a true yardstick for NFL GMs to confirm where their player rankings align with the guide’s.

As it pertains to the Houston Texans, understanding what is included and mentioned in the guide will help us prepare and further evaluate Nick Caserio’s moves in just two weeks. With 12 picks in the 2023 draft, Caserio has the ammunition to move as he wishes throughout the weekend. Although the 2023 class is not heralded as a premier group of players, it will be a defining one in the Texans’ franchise history.

Bryce Young Remains Number One

The jockeying for the QB1 position is in a dead heat as both Bryce Young and CJ Stroud appear to be viable options to land with the Carolina Panthers at the first overall pick. Houston will continue to be at the mercy and decision making process of Scott Fitterer, who moved his Panthers up to the first pick in the draft several weeks ago. The Athletic notes that Young’s “vision and ability to create out of structure are special” as their main attribute to his game. Then, they cue the Steph Curry references to illustrate the dynamic nature of his game.

In turn, the brochure calls Stroud a “strong decision-maker and made incremental improvements getting deeper into his progressions…identifies coverages pre-snap to anticipate the voids and understand where to attack the defense.” These attributes are far more defined and technical than the ones used for Young.

The differences in what your are looking for – a gamer vs a technician – should make you decide what you’re looking for in a QB. All that matters is what the Panthers want and what remains for the Texans.

An Extraordinarily Deep Tight End Class

Five of the top 51 players hail from the tight end group in this year’s rankings. In comparison, There’s only two safeties ranked in the 70 in this class. While tight ends are notoriously difficult to project and are as scheme-dependent as any position in the league, this year’s crop presents an opportunity to add a multi-faceted player to your roster outside of the first round.

Like running backs and safeties, the value of a tight end is less of a premium than say a corner or wide receiver. This value proposition can push a top-50 talent such as Luke Musgrave from Oregon State into the early parts of round three.

An Extraordinarily Weak Linebacker Class

The depreciation of three-linebacker defenses has truly decimated the crop of players in this class. This is evident in last year’s LB1 not going until pick 22 with Quay Walker, who was a surprise pick over Devin Lloyd (a personal favorite).

Mel Kiper Jr., and more importantly I, profoundly prefer Trenton Simpson from Clemson. Simpson is a true off-ball linebacker – something this class lacks – while Drew Sanders is a jack of all trades on defense.

Only Sanders, Simpson, and Iowa prospect Jack Campbell are fully capable linebacker prospects. Sure, there’s interesting opportunities in guys such as Demarvion Overshown, Ivan Pace Jr., and Noah Sewell, but this tier of linebackers all require a lot of things to go right when previous players at their ranking would be lock-in starters at the next level.

Houston is well positioned to take a risk on one of these developmental guys. Christian Harris, Christian Kirksey, and Denzel Perryman make for a sound linebacking corps, but adding a mid-round prospect with high upside could really solidify this group.

Wide Receiver Dice Roll

Quinten Johnson has been ousted as the established WR1 in this class. Forget ousted, the TCU WR lands as the fifth player at the position due to a multitude of drops and “streamlined route tree”.

Enter Jaxson Smith-Njigba. The junior wide receiver’s limited 2022 season has not quelled interest in the Ohio State product. In fact, his resurgence in the past weeks has brought him directly into the eye of the Texans mock draft hurricane.

The rankings also have Jalin Hyatt as the third-highest rated receiver behind Addison and JSN. Depending on how the wide receiver class unfolds, Houston could be staring at any one of these premier pass catchers with their 33rd pick. Especially if a defensive player falls into their lap at 12, taking the “best of the rest” approach could afford them a nice luxury to begin day two.

Other interesting items regarding the Texans was the quantity of second and third round interior offensive lineman. The Texans could get their pick of the best interior guards or center in this class in the early second round or wait a bit and select one in the third. As well, the safety position is particularly weak. I could see the Texans picking Antonio Johnson in the second, or waiting on a player like Ji’ayir Brown from Penn State in the third or fourth rounds. The last interesting take away is the two deepest positions appear to be defensive end and wide receiver; two of the biggest needs heading into the draft. If the Texans want to use their 12th pick on a player in other positions who is falling in the draft like Devon Witherspoon or even Jalen Carter, they have the luxury of depth at these two top priority positions.

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